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Bunting House Demo. Decision Due This Week—Arguments Made

Judge to rule this week on potential injunction against demolition.

A Motions Court judge will rule within the week on whether or not to issue an injunction against the Bunting House demolition in Roxborough. 

Attorneys for a coalition of civic associations and property owners at 5901 Ridge Ave. argued Monday before Judge Idee Fox on if a stay of demolition should occur at the stately property. 

The ruling will come by week's end, she said, and no demolition can occur before then.

The legal question before Fox is whether she should order an injunction against demolition while the Department of Licenses and Inspections and Zoning Board of Adjustment can rule on an appeal. If she rules in the neighborhood groups' favor, she may require a bond to be posted—which she indicated Monday she would favor. 

The civic associations allege that the city erred in issuing permits to the Giovannones for demolition, because that use, they say, a vacant lot isn't specifically an allowable use.

Frank and Anthony Giovannone purchased, received permits and seek to demolish 5901-09 Ridge Ave. because they say the older buildings' conditions render them "functionally obsolete," Frank testified.

"We looked at this as an opportunity to cleanup a corner of a hodgepodge of buildings," Frank said Monday, adding the developers attempted to recruit McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell and others. "None of them want to go into this building as it is."

He submitted a report saying ADA, fire and building code violations pervade the structure and break-ins make the vacant buildings unsafe to the neighborhood. 
"If someone gets into a building, starts a fire over the winter, we could have a tragedy on our hands," he said. 

The Giovannones are second-generation Roxborough residents who testified that they have preserved historical buildings before and look to create jobs and spur commerce on a section of Ridge Avenue. 

Fox directly asked Frank Giovannone if, while growing up in Roxborough, he ever considered the Bunting House noteworthy. 

"No. There's a million of them up and down Ridge Avenue," he said. 

Hal Schirmer, who represents the Central Roxborough Civic Association and other groups, contends previous plans by past owners demonstrate that development can occur on-site while preserving the .

Additionally, Schirmer referenced rental licenses the city granted in March, which he said indicates no such problems. 

"If the buildings have become unstable, it's because they have sat vacant, allowing them to deteriorate," Schirmer said.

He has argued before that the citizens should have the opportunity to appeal within city's agencies and that demolition prior to that violates their chance.

Carl Primavera, the property owners' attorney, said a vacant lot is the absence of a use and his clients complied with the city's guidelines. 

"Counsel has found a clever argument, but one that doesn't stand the light of day," he said. "There's no way to save the building and there's no legal requirement to do."

The city's attorney, Andrew Ross, said, while the city has no opinion on whether the home gets destroyed or not, the property owners properly used the city's channels. 

"There is no such zoning use as vacant property, which is the only legal contention," he said. "We allow (citizens) to have vacant lots, as long as they are maintained."

Fox's decision is expected by Friday at latest.

Debbie Thomas December 11, 2012 at 01:11 PM
While I hope that the Bunting House can be saved, I have a feeling that the ruling is going to be in favor of the developer. I also feel that if demolition of all of the buildings occurs, it won't be long before you'll hear that a fast food chain will be going up at the location.
blit December 11, 2012 at 02:52 PM
This developer is such a joke. Good luck once you get the building knocked down to have ANYTHING built. The neighbors will oppose it. Also, "lifelong Roxborough residents" is just blatantly not true, as the Giovannones are residents of Mont Co
Jessica December 11, 2012 at 03:46 PM
@ blit - Agreed. If they think the residents of Roxborough will not fiercely oppose a fast food chain restaurant they are sorely mistaken. They obviously haven't done any research on the demographics of the neighborhood. Roxborough fits more of the Whole Foods or Trader Joes demographic.
Debbie Thomas December 11, 2012 at 03:51 PM
If a restaurant has to go there I would prefer non-fast food. A Panera Bread would be nice or maybe Carabbas.
Judith Gotwald December 11, 2012 at 04:12 PM
What's all the talk about restaurants? They say (who are they kidding) they want a vacant lot here. Hmm. A vacant lot supported by McDonald's and KFC, etc. Looks like all the adjacent properties are headed to vacant lotdom, too. Lots of money in vacancy, apparently.
burnembrndn December 11, 2012 at 04:43 PM
No offense, but my office just laughed out loud when I read this comment... Maybe there are some pockets are the Whole Foods/TJ demographic but by and large that is pretty much the opposite of Roxborough. This is still a pretty average working class neighborhood. Take a walk up the Ridge, past the countless dollar stores and hair salons and pizza places... maybe enjoy a drink at Peck's or Scanlon's. I'm not sure where one would ever get the idea this is a Whole Foods kind of town. As much as I'd love to see the Bunting house saved you have to know that any sort of fast food is going to make a killing there.
kevin December 11, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Maybe here we can get that Foodery we were supposed to get at 6148 Ridge Ave. That would be a more welcome addition to the neighborhood than fast food.
Debbie Thomas December 11, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I thought the Foodery was going to be open soon and they were interviewing. Speaking of opening, when is the gym where the Golden dealership was located, going to be? It sure has been taking a long time lately for new businesses on Ridge and also on Main (Rubb).
Jessica December 11, 2012 at 06:16 PM
@ Kevin - I peaked thru the craft paper on the windows of the Foodery and it is coming along nicely! Now all we need is a brewpub in place of the old bank on the corner of Lyceum and Ridge. @ burnembrndn - Yes, the neighborhood is still somewhat working class now but it is also changing quite rapidly w/ all these new development projects. I am looking at the inevitable future of the neighborhood based on all these changes. Ridge will become a nice alternative to Main st. with restaurants and retail more fitting to the mid 30's-40's age range.
Michael December 11, 2012 at 06:39 PM
"No. There's a million of them up and down Ridge Avenue," Really Frank? You sound like an intelligent man. And how many stories are the Giovannone's gonna make up about this place? Now your playing the "we're trying to clean up the corner" card? With a fast food restaurant? Though any fast food restaurant would probably look better than most of the Giovannone developments. And if he's so worried about a fire why wouldn't he clean up the giant mound of garbage that was laying between the two properties for months? Ah, cause you really don't care. Oh and the police should be contacting the neighbors around the properties as I know a few have outside cameras. It's amazing what those things pick up.
Debbie Thomas December 11, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I think the constuction on those homes where the Ivy Ridge Assisted Living used to be is going to start soon. I was driving by the other day and saw a sign up advertising the houses, although I forget the name. This is one development I don't mind seeing on Ridge. Plus it gets rid of those eyesore buildings where so many of the elderly were mistreated.
Daina December 11, 2012 at 07:01 PM
The working class is well represented in Roxborough. Believe me. I dream about the day I will be able to get a takeout dinner that is not fast (death) food, pizza, greasy Chinese, or hoagies. And really how many hair salons does one street need? Ridge Ave. has a lot of potential and needs a master plan.
Debbie Thomas December 11, 2012 at 07:17 PM
They really are numbskulls making a remark like this. A million homes that look like the Bunting House on Ridge? I also like where Frank says about someone getting into the buildings and setting a fire. Wishful thinking on his part? If the judge does issue an injunction against demolition, I wouldn't put it past them to do what Neducsin (allegedly) did when people tried to preserve the Manayunk Club. There was a fire and what remained of the building burned to the ground. Arson was suspected but there was no definite proof. Now Nob Hill and another apartment complex are there.
krautmef December 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM
No there is not a million of them, there is only one. These Giovannino's or whatever could care less about roxbourough it's all about money. They are a bunch of crap.
krautmef December 12, 2012 at 02:00 AM
This guy is bad news and a liar. He gives Italian people a bad name.
Trebor December 12, 2012 at 03:42 AM
A new petition to save the Bunting House with a plan to oppose projects at 5901-5909 Ridge and boycott future business at that location if Giovannone Construction demolishes the historic Bunting House. https://www.change.org/petitions/giovannone-construction-stop-the-demolition-of-the-bunting-house
rich December 12, 2012 at 12:13 PM
i hope they build another Pecks,Dollar store,and popeye's chicken.
Kevin December 12, 2012 at 06:08 PM
LOL! Seriously @Jessica? Whole Foods and TJs in Roxbourogh? Maybe if they sold cigarettes and lottery tickets... I live very close to Bunting. I know the neighborhood pretty well. And while a fast food joint is not my top choice either, I have to face facts - A KFC/Popeyes/McD's will do insanely well at that location. The junk food demographic is already present; Septa stops, Hospital, Kendrick, AMY NW...
Kevin December 12, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I will be toasting champagne when IRAL gets the wrecking ball!
Debbie Thomas December 14, 2012 at 03:17 PM
"The junk food demographic is already present; Septa stops, Hospital, Kendrick, AMY NW..." Responding a little late because I just saw this. It's so true. You can add in the students at Roxborough H.S. too, unless they're included with the bus stop crowd.

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